Posts Tagged ‘wine tasting’

Teusner Wines

Another week, another wine tasting. This week Randall’s hosted winemaker Kym Teusner of Teusner (Toys-ner) Wines who are a small northern Barossa winery, based around Ebenezzer. They make a small number of Rhone style reds and are slowly adding some whites with some serious character to the lineup.

One thing that distinguishes Teusner from a lot of wineries is that they are not vignerons. They buy all of their fruit from a few carefully selected vineyards, the owners of which are treated more like business partners. Their largest supplier of fruit is the Riebke brothers, this family have been growing grapes in the Barossa for generations and were slowly being made to pull all of their old growth, but unprofitable Grenache and Mataro vines and replace them with Chardonnay. Forced by big corporations and the government and their big bank accounts.

Kym overheard the Riebke’s at a barbecue talking about this predicament and quickly raised enough capital to buy a small portion of the fruit. This, along with a lot of patience and financial assistance from the Riebke’s saved the vines and neither the Teusners nor the Riebke’s have looked back.

The story doesn’t stop there, not long after – Kym was working at Rolf Binder wines while trying to get his own label off the ground when one of the Riebke’s showed up with a truckload of fruit and asked Kym if he wanted some more fruit. Kym told him that he would come out tomorrow and have a look at the vines, the Riebke’s reply was that tomorrow wasn’t soon enough, the fruit was in the truck, they didn’t want to take it to the big guys down the road and Kym could pay him when he could afford it. Turns out the fruit was great, the wine was amazing, the bill was paid, the vineyard was picked and taken to the Teusner’s each year, not Fosters.

This process of taking good, old vines that are being “wasted” in massive mass produced wines is a common theme, their Woodside Sauvignon Blanc is from growers in a similar situation. The wine was being all taken to a “big” producer and being mixed into whatever was seen fit, the grower offered his wines to Teusner, who decided they could make great wine with a bit of helpful guidance and good winemaking. The Woodside Sauvignon Blanc is like very few Sauvignon Blanc you will have tasted. Full of character and minerality and very little of the crazy acidity and citrus flavours.

This wasn’t Teusner’s only gain at the loss of the big guys. The Grange Hermitage fruit is taken from a number of vineyards around the Barossa. For this fruit to be used in the Grange it needs to meet the Foster’s quality levels this amongst other things involves maximum vineyard yield and in 2006 this was too high. Turns out the fruit was amazing and it went into the Astral Series Riebke FG Shiraz, a wine that at $130 is worth every cent (this coming from a guy that can’t afford it)

The Joshua, Avatar and Riebke are Teusner’s staple. The first 2 are both Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro and both completely different. I’m pretty sure I ended up with 2 of the same glass and only got to taste the Avatar. This was a complex, savoury blend that would match well with spring rolls, a rich red curry or a rare steak. I’m told the Avatar was a much different beast, a much more not over-ripe fruit driven wine made in a northern-Rhone style.

The Riebke is one of the best valued bottles of wine you will find, priced around $20 this is a perfumed, fruit driven shiraz without a hint of raisins or sultanas. The oak-driven spices hold up perfectly against the fruit and is carried perfectly by the soft tannins. This will sit perfectly against a meaty lamb or duck dish.

Hawke’s Bay Wine Region, New Zealand

Surrounding the towns of Hastings and Napier Hawke’s Bay is a unique part of New Zealand. Driving through New Zealand you start to grow accustomed to the site of vineyards and wineries on all sides, but you certainly won’t get used to the geometric ornaments and motifs of the Art-Deco style of architecture. Rebuilt almost from scratch after a 1930s earthquake, Napier (and to a lesser extent Hastings) gives you the feeling you are in the Truman Show. This strange feeling continues when you seemingly the majority of restaurants and bars are closed for business.The places that aren’t shut are busy until late at night despite them being expensive, pretentious and in my experience the service being below par.

In stark contrast to the City of Napier, the wineries in the surrounding area all emit a vibe of passion and love of wine. Great red wine is the order of the day in Hawke’s Bay with wineries growing Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah) and the odd Pinot Noir. The region is not without its Whites with award-winning Chardonnay and complex aromatics (Mainly Pinot Gris, Riesling and Viognier). The climate provides great wine-making for the rich flavoured reds with hot summer temperatures, low rainfall and long sunlight hours.

Add to this a large number of micro-regions which provide the wines of this area a great deal of diversity. The most renowned of these micro-regions is the Gimblett Gravels region which has very gravelly soil providing a perfect fast-draining basis for the Bordeaux varieties. A number of wineries in the area own vineyards in this small apellation and produce single vineyard and reserve labels from them with amazing results.

We only spent an afternoon and a morning tasting wines in the area but we left wishing we had a whole lot more time, more space in the luggage and some sort of expense account. The wineries we stopped at were:

  • Elephant Hill
  • Clearview
  • Kim Crawford
  • Craggy Range
  • Te Mata
  • Vidal
  • Matariki
  • Trinity Hill

Having spent a fair bit of time in and around Central Otago wineries and seeing a small part of Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay’s wineries really were something special. Each of the wineries was unique, the staff were passionate, the wines were beautiful and there was a feel of history and of something special in the air. While it may not be the major draw card of New Zealand wine, it for me is what I will remember when thinking of the people and the feel of New Zealand wine.

Marlborough Wine Region, New Zealand

No self-respecting wine lover, or even drinker, who is travelling New Zealand should miss the opportunity to check out the wineries of the Marlborough region. This area is New Zealand’s largest wine growing area and probably it’s most famous. The Sauvignon Blanc’s grown around the Wairau River are becoming known as some of the finest in the world and by visiting any cellar door in the area anybody will see why. Each of the wineries I visited was unique but there was one common theme, the people here love wine and they love to talk about it.

Marlborough is the largest wine growing region in New Zealand with over 11,000 hectares of vineyards growing mainly in the Wairau Valley. The weather is predominantly sunny and dry (when we were there however, there was torrential rain) with hot days and cool nights, this coupled with fast-draining alluvial soils makes this an excellent area to grow aromatic varietals. Sauvignon Blanc is the most respected of these and as Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris are gaining in popularity more of these aromatic styles are being planted and grown.

The majority of wineries are located west of Blenheim around the town of Renwick, there are more cellar doors than you could possibly visit in a day and you would struggle to do it in two. Many of the wineries have restaurants and cafes on site, and you are welcome to picnic on the grounds at others. The whole area is perfectly suited to sitting in the sun (or torrential rain) and enjoying a bottle of the local poison, a few olives and some pancetta amongst the vines. Before you visit it is well worth checking out the Marlborough Winegrowers Association website which has a heap of maps and information about the area.

During our visit we visited 6 and wished we had more time, a driver and a whole lot more money able to spend on sending wine home. The wineries we visited were:

  • Wairau River
  • Hunters
  • Saint Clair
  • Cloudy Bay
  • Mount Riley
  • Montana

Peregrine Winery

Wine is one of these strange things that a lot of young people drink and love but they don’t become passionate about it until they get older. Peregrine winery, however isn’t the sort of place that is stuck in the same old stereotypes of old people, old buildings and old traditions. It’s hard to expect anything of the sort as you drive down the driveway, the massive white roof of the winery catches your eye, sticking out in a strange harmony with the landscape.

It’s quite difficult to actually see what you are looking at until you get closer, the judges of some bigwig architecture prize described it as “an elegant blade of light” and that “the age-old process of making wine has been radically reinterpreted for our time”. Not really sure how a building reinterprets the wine making process, but each to their own. I think the beauty of the building is it’s multiple purposes – not only does it reduce the cooling costs of the winery, but it acts as a concert stage.

Concert stage you may ask? It turns out that Central Otago summer is perfect for producing wine as the number of awards Peregrine has won attests to. The summer is also perfect for sitting on the lawn, enjoying some good wine, taking in the scenery and listening to awesome bands, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Jose Gonzalez in recent times. Needless to say, the wine flows freely and the weather is great.

Peregrine Winery is a must stop on your way through the Gibbston Valley, preferably in summer when a band is playing but if it’s winter and the mountains are snow capped the wine will still taste great.

Central Otago Wine Tasting – Chard Farm

Driving into Queenstown is quite an experience, following the winding Kawarau River down through the Gibbston Valley and the Kawarau gorge is the sort of drive that you can’t stop looking around in amazement. The problem with looking around with your mouth wide open, is that you might miss the amazing vineyards either side of the road. Now it isn’t just the architecture and landscapes they are built on either, rumour has  it that the Pinot Noir is pretty good. Today, I took the opportunity to test that theory – I woke up around 1, jumped in the car and headed to the closest (well not the closest) but the first winery.

Chard Farm, is a beautifully understated vineyard perched on the cliffs of the Kawarau gorge on the old (1860) Cromwell-Queenstown road. The buildings are massive Tuscan-inspired warehouses which were built in 1993 specifically for the vineyard. It is one of the oldest wineries in the area and certainly feels like it truly is part of Central Otago – the clerk at the cellar door spoke like he had been a part of the furniture for the best part of the last 40 years and the wine wasn’t too bad either.

We started by tasting the “CO2” the 21st birthday bubbly, it’s a really refreshing and light bubbly, which really doesn’t have too much more than bubbles in common with champagne. The unwooded chardonnay was a very easy drinking white with very subtle flavours, it’s certainly not what I think of when I think Chardonnay. The Pinot Noirs were all good, if a little too subtle with “2006 the Viper” being my pick, it has a great peppery note and blackberry flavours. Probably the spiciest of the wines we tasted.

At the end of the day, I wish I had have been to Chard Farm last, I think I would have appreciated it more at the time.